Director and Co-Founder
Eunisses Hernandez is a policy advocate and campaign strategist with over 5 years of experience in working with local and state legislators, system actors, and communities most devastated by criminalization, the war on drugs, and mass incarceration. Eunisses has been a leader in helping develop and implement sentencing reforms and sentence enhancement abolition policies. Her efforts have led to the repeal and reform some of the most devastating tough on crime policies in California. Most recently, she has been a leader in the JusticeLA jail fight that stopped a $3.5 billion dollar jail plan in Los Angeles County. Eunisses has extensive experience in developing and implementing alternatives to incarceration. Most recently, she was appointed as a voting member to the Los Angeles County Alternatives to Incarceration Work Group and Co-chair of the Community Based System of Care AD HOC.
Eunisses is an alum of the Women’s Policy Institute Local Government and State Policy fellowship programs. In 2017, she was named one of the 40 Under 40 Emerging Civic Leaders by the Empowerment Congress and the Office of Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas. Eunisses holds a BA in Criminal Justice from California State University, Long Beach and currently resides in Los Angeles.
Director and Co-Founder
Ivette Alé is a queer, Latinx grassroots organizer and advocate leading campaigns to reform the criminal legal system in California. Their history growing up in Southern California as an undocumented person and as the child of an incarcerated person, has informed their activism throughout their career. As the Campaign Coordinator for JusticeLA, Ivette led the coalition to historic victories, including ending LA County’s $3.5 billion jail expansion plan in 2019 and the adoption of Los Angeles County’s groundbreaking Alternatives to Incarceration roadmap in 2020. Ivette serves as an LA County Commissioner on the Gender Responsive Advisory Committee. Ivette is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley with a BA in Political Science, a Women’s Policy Institute Fellow and a UCLA Law Fellow.
Gabriela Vazquez (she/her/hers) is a native Angeleno from the neighborhood of Highland Park. She comes to our organization with experience in labor organizing, community organizing, and legal advocacy for immigrant and low income communities. Gabriela’s passion for organizing and social justice stems from her upbringing; her parents, immigrants from Ecuador and Mexico, met in the United States while working as union organizers. Gabriela recalls participating in picket lines, boycotts, and union hall meetings from a very young age. Her exposure to organizing inspired her to pursue a minor degree in Labor Studies from the University of California, Riverside along with her B.A. in Creative Writing.
Gabriela has joined us in the fight to decarcerate the largest jail population in the United States because she wholeheartedly believes in the importance of uplifting all members of society with care, and not alienation in cages.
Kaitlin Ruiz (she/her) has called Los Angeles her home for over two decades now. Her passions have been shaped by her upbringing especially as a daughter of immigrants and as a close witness to the harsh realities of the injustice system. Determined to make a difference in the communities she is a part of, Kaitlin changed paths from her corporate world background and joined La Defensa bringing with her over 6 years worth of professional experience in administration, operations, and organizational development.
Kaitlin graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies and is currently pursuing a masters degree in Organizational Leadership with a specialization in HR management.